Catherine West

Faculty Research Fellow
Research Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Archaeology

Symposium on Circumpolar Climate Change, Resource Management, and Applied Archaeology

The role of the social sciences in northern circumpolar research has surged in recent years as humans grapple with new adaptations to changing climate, landscapes, and resources. Despite the long history of human activity in this region – perhaps up to 35,000 years or more – the long-term archaeological record of human activity remains marginal in discussions of climate change, ecosystem response, and cultural adaptation. This project will convene social scientists, resource managers, and climate scientists at the first Symposium on Circumpolar Climate Change, Resource Management, and Applied Archaeology to create real discussion about the value of long-term archaeological and paleoenvironmental records for contemporary resource management. More specifically, this symposium will build on existing collaborations to discuss the role of these long-term records in fisheries management in the North Pacific and North Atlantic Oceans, where fishing is central to cultural and economic health in both regions.


BA Bryn Mawr College; PhD University of Washington


Arctic archaeology, applied zooarchaeology, long-term human-environmental interactions


Catherine West is a Research Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Archaeology at Boston University, where she directs the Boston University Zooarchaeology Lab. She received her PhD in Anthropology from the University of Washington in 2009 and was a post-doctoral fellow at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History, where she is currently a Research Collaborator.

Professor West’s research focuses on using the zooarchaeological record – or ancient animal bones – to understand contemporary environmental questions, taking an applied approach to archaeology in coastal Alaska. Using zooarchaeological, stable isotope, and ancient DNA analyses, West investigates the history and long-term effects of invasive species introductions, how human harvesting has influenced animal populations, and whether past ecosystem responses to climate change can be used to understand current and future changes. This work is done in collaboration with Alutiiq and Unangan tribal museums in the Gulf of Alaska and Aleutian Islands. West’s research is supported by NSF and the National Geographic Society, she was recognized by the NSF as a member of the New Generation of Polar Researchers, and she has published widely on ancient human-animal interactions. At BU, West teaches courses on environmental archaeology, archaeological science, archaeological theory, and North American archaeology.